There is something pathetic about President Barack Obama’s kickoff speech for a month-long campaign to recast the foreign policy failures of the last five years as some kind of “success” within the “new” foreign policy framework he enunciated at West Point today.
The speech, like his announcement that the U.S. would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by 2016, embodied Obama’s ongoing attempts to manage U.S. foreign policy by looking first and foremost to domestic political objectives and, in this context, to manage the narrative about the “success” of his foreign policy.
The speech reveals, above all else, Obama’s inability to hear the substance of what his critics are saying about his foreign policy. They either “don’t understand” or are making criticisms for purely partisan purposes.
The speech was an attempt to persuade his many audiences “that he was right” in the foreign policy decisions and actions he has taken over the last five years. He makes no attempt to hide the arrogance of this assertion.
As Russia is still engaged, today, in aggression against the Ukraine by sending both special operations and irregular forces across its border with Ukraine, to wreak havoc and intimidation among the population in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and more widely, Obama trumphets his appeasement and pacifism in the face of Russian aggression–tempered only by modest targeted sanctions against individuals and companies in Russia and the Ukraine.
As we have long suggested, the reader would be wise to pay attention to Obama’s actions, and just ignore the torrents of well-crafted words which seek to put him in the best light.
Obama was an extraordinary candidate, particularly in 2008. But now, after five years in office, the president can and will be judged by his record. The time for electoral speeches is past. He has but two and a half years to alter the judgment of history. If his speech today is any indication, those years are likely to be an opportunity wasted.
Long after he has lost his ability to influence the narrative of his foreign policy, it is to deeds, to actions and not words, that historians and others will look.
The record of those actions, and their consequences in the world, is not a pretty one. Speeches will not, and cannot, change that fact.
The Trenchant Observer